Spotlight on Students: Amy Pochodylo
What inspired you to pursue a degree in engineering?
I got my undergraduate degree from Michigan State in chemistry and, while I loved chemistry, I wanted to find a field that was more applied and where the emphasis was strongly environmental. Environmental engineering seemed to be the perfect spot for that and I was delighted to find that my chemistry background had prepared me well for engineering.
What drew you to Cornell CEE?
Cornell is a great school for environmental studies, especially because it is in such an environmentally conscious area. I got my master’s degree at Cornell in the Environmental Toxicology program and moved to CEE for my PhD because it seemed like the perfect program for combining my interests in water treatment and chemistry.
Tell us about your current research.
I am a PhD student in the Helbling research group. My main research goal is to use high-resolution mass spectrometry techniques to better identify the range of anthropogenic compounds in water. Currently, I am working to identify micropollutants- including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and personal care products- that are present in Ithaca’s water system. I was fortunate to be able to work with the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Plant and members of the Ithaca College community to collect a variety of samples over the past eight months. It has been fascinating to get to study something that I use every single day and I am excited about the insights that my work will bring. In the future, I hope to develop screening methods to allow for accurate and quicker identification of micropollutants in a variety of waters, thus allowing a more complete picture of the pollutants we should be concerned about.
Have you received any awards you’ve received at Cornell?
I was named a 2014 NSF Graduate Research Fellow.
What are some of your extra-curricular activities?
I am on the coordinating committee of GRASSHOPR (Graduate Student School Outreach Program), a program through the Cornell Public Service Center that places graduate students in local K-12 classrooms to teach mini-courses of their choosing. Through GRASSHOPR, my husband and I are teaching a fourth grade class in Lansing about the water cycle, erosion, and where their water comes from. I am also involved with Alpha Chi Sigma, the professional chemistry fraternity, and have participated in science outreach programs with them. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, being active, and exploring Ithaca!
What’s your favorite part about the CEE major?
I have loved learning how to be an engineer and I love seeing the overlap between chemistry and environmental engineering. The department is full of fun and interesting people conducting very relevant research that I enjoy hearing about!